More peanuttiness: The FDA has widened its salmonella recall to all peanut products — including peanut butter, paste and meal — manufactured by a Blakeley, GA plant since January 2007. A year too late, the FDA conducted an inspection of the plant and discovered that managers had knowingly shipped contaminated products on multiple occasions and, when factory-floor tests turned up positive for salmonella, shopped around to different laboratories until they found a friendly one. FDA’s last inspection of the plant was in 2001, after which it outsourced the job to the Georgia Department of Agriculture (no conflict of interest there). Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is calling for criminal charges to be brought. (Washington Post) (See FDA’s list of recalled products and the agency’s recent inspection report [PDF])
Tomato juicing: Managers at Frito-Lay and Kraft Foods pled guilty Tuesday to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a California tomato processor, SK Foods, to purchase the processor’s tomatoes at inflated prices. SK Foods manufactures about 15% of U.S. tomato paste, and these charges are part of a larger federal investigation into the processor for price fixing. (SF Chronicle) Related: Ethicurean post about concentration in the tomato industry.
Digging in: New Agriculture Secretary Vilsack gives a press conference where he outlined his current priorities, including extending the comment period on rules for subsidy payment limits. (USDA) Vilsack’s team have appointed 48 people to USDA, but some are only temporary while the vetting process continues. (PDF, Agri-Pulse)
White House will cook with SOLE: Sam Kass, a private chef for the Obamas while they were living in Chicago, will work alongside the White House executive chef. Kass is committed to local, sustainable food and to reforming school lunches . (The Caucus Blog)
Milk in the tank: Milk prices worldwide are tumbling, and California farmers are pouring thousands of gallons of milk down their drains or sending cows to be slaughtered for hamburger in preparation for a 35% reduction in the price they are paid for milk. California regulators will enact the cut on Feb. 1. Sources say the state is poised to lose 10% of its dairies this year. (Sacramento Bee) One solution proposed for plunging dairy prices was to have the government buy cattle and “retire” them (as hamburger) to reduce the supply of milk. Big Beef was not so into this idea, as it would have hurt its prices, and it won. (The Plum Line; thanks, Beth!) Who’s not complaining about falling prices? Companies that use milk as an ingredient in their products, including Kraft Foods and Domino’s Pizza. (Dow Jones Newswires)
E. Coli Avenger in running for food-safety czar: Bill Marler is being considered for head of the Food Safety Inspection Service, apparently. But the lead contenders are Caroline Smith–Dewall, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and former FSIS administrator Barbara J. Masters, who is currently senior policy adviser at Washington law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC. (Washington Post) Frankly, we’re as shocked as Obama Foodorama at the possibility that Masters, a lobbyist for Big Ag, is in the running.
Au revoir, Camembert: Under French law, the gooey cheese must be made with raw milk in order to bear the Camembert name, but concern about potential contamination in unpasteurized milk is fueling tension between producers and regulators. Cheese companies in the export business are particularly vulnerable as local food traditions clash with foreign food safety concerns. (Dairy Reporter)
Tyson plant fallout: Efects from the major downsizing of a chicken processing plant ripple throughout Emporia, Kansas. (Emporia Gazette)
Organic growth slows, but continues: Sales of organic food in December were up 5.6 percent, year on year, against a 25.6 percent rise a year earlier. (Planet Ark via Reuters)